Urgent care. Immediate care. Walk-in care.
Chances are you've seen the proliferation of these types of out-patient emergency facilities over the past few years. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, there are more than 9,000 ambulatory urgent care practices in the U.S. providing care for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries, with more expected.
"There is a huge need for these services," said Dr. Jake Deutsch, founder and clinic director of Cure Urgent Care (2689 Broadway, 212-832-2756, cureurgentcare.com) opening on the Upper West Side on Aug. 1. "As Obamacare connect more people with access to healthcare, a lot of hospitals are going to be burdened with a large volume of new patients."
For those in the field, it's big business, too -- to the tune of $14.5 billion, according to a recent New York Times report. But for patients, it can be confusing medical terrain to navigate. We talked with Deutsch, who previously worked as an attending physician in the Emergency Trauma Department at Hackensack University medical Center for 10 years, about the rise of these urgent care centers.
What is an urgent care facility?
To define an urgent care center -- it should be able to do X-rays, take care of a laceration and [have doctors] trained in emergency medicine. If your knee is swollen, it could be an infection that's getting into the blood stream. You need someone trained in emergency medicine who understands it may be more complicated. They have to be able to do the things that are in the spectrum of urgent care.
Why are you opening an urgent care center?
Urgent care facilities are kind of a big trend in overall healthcare. What we provide is immediate care for those urgent problems that come up -- broken ankle, laceration, urinary tract infection -- as an alternative to the traditional emergency department, where people kind of relied on going to for those types of problems. A lot of people also have primary doctors but can't get in to see them. Urgent care is basically a bridge between your ER and home-care doctor for problems that need to be seen right away.
How is an urgent care center different from the ER from the patient perspective?
The emergency department is going to prioritize patients ? so going to the hospital isn't always the fastest option or the most productive or pleasant experience. Our facility offers a more comfortable environment that is what you'd expect from a boutique hotel. We've created this concierge level of urgent care. We guarantee no wait time. On a financial level, an urgent care facility is a much more efficient way of providing services, which means the costs are lower. You can get out of most places paying around $150, versus going to the hospital and paying $800.
How does urgent care compare to a primary care physician's role?
A primary care doctor's role is really about disease prevention. about dealing with an existing, new, acute problem. So dealing with chronic problems like diabetes, thyroid, getting colonic and breast examinations -- that's your primary care doctor's role to make sure you're getting that care.
When should you go to the emergency room over an urgent care facility?
If you need to call an ambulance, then you should go to the ER. If you're having chest pain, a heart attack, stroke -- that's an emergency. For all those other problems -- if you've got a bad migraine, have a rash -- we fall into that. It's tricky when people have chest pain -- that can be stress, or muscular or indigestion. Certainly we can do an EKG and make sure someone's not having a heart attack. But those kinds of problems, especially if you have a history, tend to be evaluated in a hospital.